Nothing beats old kitchen supplies - expect maybe made-to-look-old ones.
Bake with tradition
As a self-confessed devotee of kitchen paraphernalia, I find items that hold the promise of uniformly chopped vegetables, perfectly baked pastries and elegantly simmering soups are irresistible. Over the years, I've amassed a large collection of kitchenalia. But of all the kitchen gadgets I've ever owned, the ones that remain true favourites are the ones my grandmother gave me. When advancing age finally dictated that her days of cooking, stirring, baking and chopping were drawing to a close, she bequeathed her formidable kitchen empire to me: a huge, ancient chopping block scarred by decades of cutting and slicing; a set of ancient kitchen scales that my grandmother had received from her mother; wiry hand-held beaters; heavy, glazed cauldrons and a not-quite-complete set of delicate china cups and saucers.
A silver sugar spoon, which I have scandalously re-employed to fish out soggy tea bags, is a reminder of an age when things were made to last. My grandmother's culinary bequest will undoubtedly outlast my scratched plastic scales, yellowing electric mixer and cracked blender (with its persistent stale odour). Some of my new favourite kitchen items include things I have inherited from friends leaving the UAE. There is a lovely cream and baby blue retro mixing bowl, a sturdy glass measuring jug, a sweet set of oversized tumblers and steak knives. Every time I use them I remember the friends who gave them to me, and it enriches their appeal.
Of course, second-hand items are not to everyone's taste. When I recently searched online for second-hand furniture and got excited about a job lot of kitchen equipment that was going for a song, my housemate greeted me with a turned-up nose: "We are not so poor that we need to use someone else's old plates." Luckily, there is a surprising array of charming, old-fashioned-but-brand-new items in the shops at the moment.
Collezione at The Dubai Mall has a collection of reproduction cookware from the famous Spode range, including gorgeous blue and white ceramic plates, serving pieces and baking and storage items. Originals are worth a fortune but the reproductions are eminently more affordable; mugs start at Dh90 and a serving plate with two sections costs Dh195. They all look as though they could have been handed down through generations, even though the charming blue and white prints are of this century.
The store also features lovely earthenware mamoul and tagines. There are small and medium sized karahis (from Dh56), traditionally used for meat and lamb dishes, as well as Moroccan-inspired tagines (Dh165). If it's Parisian flea-market style that you're after, Index Living in The Dubai Mall has some gorgeous prints of Paris cafe life that will add a French flair to even the most determinedly modern kitchen. The store also has some classic style cookie jars (Dh15) and dessert dishes that will add an old-fashioned confectionery store feel to your cookies, cakes and tarts.
Bois & Chiffons in Mall of the Emirates also has several items of old-fashioned cookware, including bowls that look as if the silver has oxidised and an extravagant pewter bottle holder with cracks and tears that make it look like an antique. For cooking that looks authentic, you can't go wrong with cast-iron pots. My grandmother gave me several of these gloriously heavy and durable cauldrons. Le Creuset saucepans are available at Jashanmal stores in Abu Dhabi Mall and the Mall of the Emirates.
And for the ultimate in lavish traditional cookware, look no further than La Cornue ovens. The company, which started in 1908 and is still a family-run business, specialises in beautifully crafted traditional ovens. They are designed to hark back to a different age but built to exacting modern standards and are available exclusively in Dubai at Carpe Diem. Classical kitchen design is gaining popularity too, although with many expatriates living in rented accommodation, an old-fashioned kitchen may be little but a pipe dream. The kitchen designer Mark Wilkinson says that even if your space is unabashedly contemporary, there are little touches that you can add to give it a comfortably aged feel.
"In terms of helping a modern kitchen attain a traditional look, don't forget the smaller items like sinks and the traditional pewter taps from Perrin and Rowe," he says. "Traditional patterns on the wall tiling will work, too. Even the smallest items add to the look - a classical Roberts Radio, for instance. Also consider pieces that can be changed, like a feature extractor canopy or a table and chairs, or even free-standing pieces of furniture that complement the fitted kitchen furniture. These are items that can be moved into other rooms or easily sold off as tastes change."
And if you'd rather create your own traditional-looking kitchen item, try taking a class by the Turkish-born artist and designer Ozden Gulen Cicek, who teaches a variety of techniques, including craquelure, in three-hour workshops at the Dubai International Art Centre (visit www.creativepainting.tr.gg for details). Or you could just wait 50 years until that jug from The One actually looks like a heirloom.